Digital Inclusion of Women: Same Difficulties as in the Real World
Women face greater difficulties than men when it comes to being included in the world of Information and Communication Technology and must overcome more obstacles because of the lack of equality and diversity in ICT projects.
During the panel titled Diversity and Inclusion: How to Include the Gender Perspective in Technological Projects that was part of the LACNIC 27 meeting, various regional actors shared their experiences and concerns regarding the long and winding road which women must travel to achieve gender equality in the world of technology (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lp-OW8G5MKw).
A majority with no Internet access. Yacine Khelladi, Coordinator for Latin America of the Alliance for Affordable Internet, an alliance of institutions managed by the Web Foundation, says that half of the world’s population is offline and that the majority of the people in this situation are women in developing countries.
“The digital gender divide is getting worse,” said Khelladi.
She attributes women’s exclusion from the digital revolution to the failure of public policies. “The good news is that this can be reversed,” she noted. She then proposed a series of policies to reduce the digital gender divide: protecting online rights, training women so they will be effectively able to access the Internet, affordable access, ensuring the availability of content that is relevant and empowering to women, and establishing and measuring concrete digital gender equality goals.
A male-dominated world. Meanwhile, María del Carmen Denis Polanco, Head of Telematics Services and Infrastructure at the UADY University’s Information Technology Administrative Coordination Center, observed that, in Mexico, there are just 3 women for every 8 men pursuing ICT related careers.
She added that in order to reverse this situation they are working with a non-profit organization that encourages the participation of girls and women in the technology sector by carrying out different activities and presenting different workshops and talks. One of the ways of attracting women and girls is by sharing the experiences of people already working in the technology sector with young girls who are deciding what to study.
Laura Kaplan, Development and Cooperation Manager at LACNIC, then presented Ayitic Goes Global, a project that uses the Internet as a tool for inclusion and which strengthens capacities and generates opportunities by training women between the ages of 18 and 25 in specific tasks they can use to join different employment markets.
“It’s a very interesting project that shows how we can use the Internet not only as a tool to provide training, but also to connect this training with employment, for example,” said Kaplan.
Efforts towards diversity. Researcher Renata Aquino, LAC representative to the ICANN NCUC Executive Committee, shared her experience when invited to participate in the Internet Freedom Festival Project, a technology conference that encourages collective efforts that support online freedom of expression, protection against digital threats and expanded access to online spaces through diversity, inclusion and collaboration.
“If we are to achieve true diversity we must think about diversity as a whole,” said Aquino, while stressing “the importance of creating alliances among people with different skills and knowledge but who can exchange knowledge regardless of their background.”
To conclude, Raquel Gatto, lawyer and Public Policy Advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Internet Society (ISOC), noted that they are not asking for anything special for women and girls, simply equality in Internet access.
She highlighted the Shine the Light campaign, which seeks to celebrate pioneering women and leaders as a source of inspiration for other women. “Celebrating the leaders in our community is very important,” concluded Gatto.